Former Open champion Henrik Stenson believes that Bryson DeChambeau is the man to beat at next month's Masters.
DeChambeau has elevated his game to new heights since golf returned from its COVID-19 lockdown, winning two PGA Tour events, including the US Open, and increasing his driving distance average by more than 20 yards.
Now, with the rescheduled Masters just around the corner, many are eager to see how DeChambeau will fare around Augusta National.
One of those is the 2016 Open champ Stenson.
“We are going to Augusta in a few weeks and length is going to be a major asset," said the Swede. "If that golf course is playing long and soft, then being able to hit those monster drives off the tee is certainly going to make the job a lot easier.
“I would say Bryson has a bigger advantage at Augusta than he did at Winged Foot. He’s got a big opportunity to go out there and win if that is the case. At the same time, you have to do a lot of other things well but he would have been way up there in the putting stats for the US Open. You can’t win by just slashing it off the tee. You need to do everything well and he certainly did that at Winged Foot.
"If he wants to win at Augusta it’s not just going to be about the distance, it’ll be about his putting and his approach shot as well.”
MEET THE MAN WHO CAN OUTDRIVE BRYSON WITH A PUTTER... SERIOUSLY!
DeChambeau’s recent success has reignited golf's long-running distance debate, with big names such as Gary Player, begging for the golf ball to be rolled back. However, Stenson believes that a golf ball roll-back would still benefit the longer hitters.
“The golf ball manufacturers feel like they are being unfairly highlighted in all of this and I have to agree with them," he said. "They are certainly one part of it but the shafts and the technology of the clubheads are improving as well. Players are stronger and taller, so when you combine everything, people are going to hit it further. It’s a number of factors as to why we hit it further.
“Just as Tiger-proofing courses played more into Tiger’s hands, Bryson-proofing would do the same for him. He’s still going to be the one who hits it the furthest and has the shorter second shots into the green. Even if we don’t bring it back, we could look at limiting where we are at the minute. It’s difficult, though. You can’t tell someone they can’t go to the gym or tell a company not to make a shaft that is more efficient.”
Stenson, who turned pro in 1998, is well placed to analyse how the game of golf has changed with the evolution of technology and admits that there isn’t as much skill to the game as there once was.
“I think that one of the biggest things for me is how there was certainly more shot-shaping back in the day with the old golf balls and equipment. Now, though, especially with the driving, it’s about teeing it up, sending it high and letting it fly. It’s less about manoeuvering the golf ball. It’s gone towards long driving. Whilst I’ve watched it happen more so in others, I’ve changed my game as well.”
Stenson was speaking to bunkered.co.uk from the Schoen Clinic London. The 44-year-old has partnered with the world-renowned innovator in the treatment and prevention of sports-related injuries, something he says he needs to stay on top of to compete against the world’s best.
“I’m turning 45 in April and I've played pro golf for 20-plus years. It’s a hard enough game when you’re healthy, so when you’re unhealthy or injured you have no chance really to compete with the best in the world if you’re not in good shape. I obviously try and look after my body and train and do all these things but you can still end up with problems from long-term wear and tear and injuries.
“I got to see the Schoen Clinic in London a year ago and was very impressed, both with the facilities and with the overall mindset of the place. It’s a one-stop-shop where, if you have an issue, you can go and get the consultation and look through all the different scans and assessments and take it from there, whether that be surgery or rehab. You stay under the one roof from when you go in right through until you are ready to go back out and start playing again, so that was very impressive.
“Touch wood, I haven’t had to visit them about an injury but if and when that would occur, I am very confident to be in their hands and get the best possible care at their facility.”
• Henrik Stenson has partnered with leading healthcare provider Schoen Clinic London, a world-renowned innovator in the treatment and prevention of sports related injuries. Schoen Clinic London is lending its expertise to benefit some of the world’s leading golfers including Francesco Molinari, Padraig Harrington, Georgia Hall and Henrik Stenson. Visit www.schoen-clinic.co.uk/golf to learn more.